I recently came across a wonderful website, written by director Ralph Senensky. He has written his memories of many television shows that he has directed, and includes several episodes of The Waltons. It’s fascinating reading, but more on that in another post.
While I was there I stumbled on a telemovie that I had never heard of before called A Dream for Christmas. It starred the lovely Lynn Hamilton, who so beautifully played Verdie in The Waltons. How is it that I’d never heard of it before?? So I put out a call on the Waltons Digest to the members, and sure enough, one of them not only knew about the telemovie, but had it on video.
Kimberly was very happy to write the following review for me:
In your February Waltons Digest you mentioned the movie, “A Dream for Christmas,” starring Lynn Hamilton (Verdie on the Waltons). I bought it on VHS off ebay back in December 2012 (It has never been released on DVD). I finally watched it this past week. It has several “Waltons” connections. It was directed by Ralph Senesky (who directed several Waltons episodes). Lee Rich was the Executive Producer on this movie as well as The Waltons. The story was written by John McGreevey & the teleplay was written by John McGreevey & Max Hodge. John McGreevey wrote several of the Waltons episodes including one of my favorites…..”The Scholar.” That is the episode that John Boy (Richard Thomas) teaches Verdie (Lynn Hamilton) to read.
Frances E. Williams is in the movie. She also played “Granny Ketchum” on the Waltons episode, “The Odyssey.” She is the one who gives John Boy the white mule named Blue.
The movie is set in 1950. Reverend William Douglas (Hari Rhodes), his wife Lynn Hamilton, their 4 children & the Reverend’s mother played by Beah Richards live in Sweet Clover Arkansas. He has been contacted to come take over a church in Los Angeles California right before Christmas. At the beginning of the movie one of the women who are seeing them off & telling them goodbye is played by Marla Gibbs (the maid Florence on The Jeffersons). Once they arrive in LA, three of the women from the church come to welcome them. One of them is Frances E. Williams & another one is Zara Cully (she played George Jefferson’s mother on The Jeffersons). I have only seen her on The Jeffersons & it was really different seeing her play a very nice church going woman!
The church has a belfry & Rev. Douglas has always wanted one but the bell is missing. The church has seen better days but it is big with beautiful stained windows. There is a sign out front beside the church that says the whole block will be demolished & a shopping center built in its place. The parsonage is attached to the church to the left of the pulpit. It is also big with an upstairs & some furniture & it too has seen better days. The paint is coming off of the walls but the family cannot believe how big it is. As they are moving their few belongings inside from their vehicle, two men from the church come to talk to the Reverend.
They tell him that they have not been able to pay the mortgage on the church in nearly a year & that if they cannot pay by the new year that the church will be torn down & become part of the shopping center. They are sorry that he has made the long trip & that they also have no money to pay him a salary. Later that night Lynn lets the Reverend know that they have $83.00 dollars left & that should be enough until he starts getting his salary. He lets her know there will be no salary. The Reverend tries to find a job & tries talking to the man over the shopping center several times, Lynn Hamilton & Beah Richards look for work. The Reverend’s oldest son gets a job after school washing cars. The first church gathering has a total of about 14 people of which half is the Reverend & his family. Will the church be saved? Will enough members come back to save the church? Enough money be collected? Will the man over the shopping center have a change of heart? Will the Christmas dream come true?
Two things I really liked about this movie (other than Lynn Hamilton being in it, I’m a big fan of hers) is: Bradley is the youngest child. I would guess about 6 or 7 years old. He shares a room with his older brother, who is 15. They have bunkbeds & Bradley takes the top bunk. He cannot get into or out of it without his brother’s help. On Christmas morning, Bradley wakes up & starts calling for his brother to help him down, when he notices that his brother has made him a ladder, tied a red bow on it & has a note attached telling him, “Merry Christmas.” The other thing also takes place on Christmas morning. The oldest son bought a bell from the local junkman. The junkman came & installed it without his parents knowledge & the boy starts pulling the rope for the bell to be heard on Chistmas morning. Naturally, his father shows up & his son tells him that it is his present to him. His father is very happy & starts helping him pull the rope.
They have alot of hardships along the way to trying to save the church. The Reverend cannot find work. Lynn & Beah find work as housekeepers. The oldest girl struggles trying to fit into her new school & she dearly misses her best friend back in Arkansas. The oldest son tries to be a good influence on a new friend instead of letting the new friend be a bad influence on him. The Reverend tries to reach some of the teens in the area who are “con” men. Bradley dearly misses his dog he had to leave behind. Then Beah has a heart attack.
There are several interesting things featured in this movie like the marveling over TV in a shop window by the children. Beah Richards surprised to learn that you can make a phone call in a box (a phone booth). Lynn & Beah go grocery shopping. They come out with 4 BIG paper bags of groceries & they tell the Reverend…..Can you believe that this cost six dollars (and some change, I forgot the exact change they said). LOL!! Today six dollars wouldn’t hardly buy anything!
In the end, the church is saved. The pews are full, the man over the shopping center comes & lets them know that he will build the shopping center & leave the church in the corner. The Reverend will start getting a salary, Beah has recovered from her heart attack, Lynn can give up her job & stay home taking care of it & the children. And Bradley got a new puppy from Santa Claus. If you ever get a chance to watch this movie, I highly recommend it.
foreverwaltons (Kimberly from Alabama)
Another Waltons Digest member, Gregory, even came up with a Youtube clip for the movie.
I thank both Kimberly and Gregory for helping me find out more about this movie. Now all I need is to get a copy myself!